Unique | Bespoke | Individual | Un-Retail

Unique | Bespoke | Individual | Un-Retail

“I am unique!”. A phrase that has never meant so much to business as it does today. In our culture of instant gratification we’re driven to demand bespoke solutions that are purpose-built around our particular personal paradigms. How are companies meant to keep up and what is driving our need to be unique?

Social Drivers

From a social point of view. We get to hide behind our collective social profiles. We get to craft our unique points of view and publish them to the world without much fear of reprisal. Social media has the illusion of being consequence free. You can say what you want to whomever you want and it’s ok. This false sense of security is very much misplaced. Granted you may feel anonymous, empowered and free to spout your unique opinion to the world without a care; but you are wrong.

There are rules that govern social media. By placing these unique opinions out into the world you are leaving a trail of breadcrumbs that lead everything you say and do right back to you. While we are not focussing on the legalities of social media here; we are focussed on how this urge to be unique is forcing business models to change.

The speed and voraciousness with which we can publish our pseudo-unique points-of-view and the virality with which people can pick up on them is faster now than ever before. Everyone is a publisher. The barriers to entry have all but fallen away completely. We are living in an age where we feel entitled to an opinion on everything; and in some cases accountable to nothing.

Consumer Drivers

This urge to be unique has spilt over and disrupted another two industries. Coffee and beer. Independent coffee roasteries and craft breweries both come from the urge to be unique. These are not technical disruptions. These are not natural advances to their traditional supply chains or business models. This is consumer disruption. The need to experience something unique; the need to have an experience different to the masses; that’s what is driving these disruptions.

Think about the number of bespoke online retailers that have recently sprung up. Etsy and Dollar Shave Club are just two examples. They are growing in popularity each day. Not because they are cheaper. Not because they are a clearly superior product. They are growing in popularity because they offer something different and unique. They are speaking to the consumers need to be an individual. To shun the mass produced and to embrace the niche!

The age of the mass-produced, non-utility product is over. Consumers need to be seen as individuals and are demanding to be treated as such.

Employee Drivers

We are not single-sided. We have personal lives as well as professional lives. The democratisation of technology and the consumer IT experience is driving this inside the business as well. Employees are demanding that their employers treat them as unique individuals at work as well. Businesses are having to cater to flexi-time; remote staff, process demands and generational differences at a faster rate today than ever before.

We are demanding more from our employers than ever before and companies of all sizes and ages are struggling to keep up with our demands.

Coping With Unique

Businesses have to cope with these unique challenges faster than ever before. Traditionally this is the domain of the CIO; but it is fast becoming an Exco issue. Business models need to shift to stay relevant. Agile technology needs to keep up with demand. The customer experience must always be top of mind.

This is the new world that brands need to navigate. No longer can this be thrust into the domain of a single member of Exco. It is not a marketing problem, nor is it a strategy problem. It’s not a financial problem, nor is not a technology problem. It is a brand problem!

Brands must fight to stay relevant to their three critical audiences (employees, suppliers and customers). This requires some agile responses that are well thought through and not reckless, knee-jerk reactions.

Executives must come together and look at their challenges collectively. It is only by looking at these unique challenges from every point of view that business models of today will be able to weather the storm into being business models of tomorrow.

Only by aligning brand, technology and strategy together will the modern-day Exco be able to weather this storm and to emerge as a more robust and relevant business, ready to embrace the unique needs of their stakeholders.

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